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Auditions give some a chance to act out history

April 11, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

For Charles Marvil of Boonsboro, a chance to act in a documentary on the Battle of Antietam and to recreate it on the actual battlefield was too good to pass up.

Marvil, a Civil War re-enactor, appeared in full period dress along with scores of other Civil War re-enactors, high school drama students and the curious Friday at Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater to audition for the movie "Antietam", which will be filmed this summer and fall.

Marvil first appeared in the movie "Gettysburg" playing multiple parts, but fame and fortune wasn't his motivation. He said he mainly wanted to make sure the filmmakers fairly and accurately portrayed both sides of the battle.

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The opportunity to recreate battles where they occured also is an intense draw, he said. "When we got done with the final take on Pickett's Charge, I got down off my horse and cried like a baby," he said. "It was one of the most emotional experiences I've ever had."

The nonprofit documentary company Historical Films Group and Media Magic Productions are producing the program with cooperation from the Antietam National Battlefield.

Since the National Park Service rarely allows re-enactors onto battlefields, the chance to participate in a re-enactment at Antietam was a big draw for many.

"To actually be able to use the battlefield, walk their steps, it gives you a deep sense of awe," said Stephen Lowe of Hagerstown. Lowe said re-enacting is important because it is a reminder of the mistakes of the past.

"If we do not learn from our mistakes we will repeat them, and there will be blood spilled again on this land," he said. "Some call it a hobby, some call it a sport. I call it work because we're doing history. It's very important that we pass on to our children our heritage."

Lowe's son, John, 10, accompanied his father for the audition and tried out for the part of a newspaper boy.

Marvil said he wished the park service opened the battlefields to more re-enactments. He said they could easily charge $30 a head. "They're sitting on a gold mine," he said.

Re-enactor Keven Walker of Hershey, Pa., said movies and re-enactments are important to keep Civil War history alive for future generations.

"Entertainment I think is the only way we're going to keep it alive," Walker said. "This is the age of laser light shows. Kids aren't going to listen to their teachers and read history books."

"Just to be able to say you helped out with something like this is monumental to me," said Bryan Shomper, 17, of Millersburg, Pa.

Others came simply for their chance to get in front of the camera and show their stuff.

"I thought it would just be fun to come check it out," said Alex Kostrzewsky of State Line, Pa. "I heard people talking about it. I just thought I would go for it."

"I like being able to go out and be somebody else," said Amy Wastler, 15, of Frederick, Md. Wastler, who learned about the audition in her drama class at Thomas Johnson high school, also got to skip class for the first half of the day.

Bill May, of Charles Town, W.Va., joked that he wanted to "get rich and famous and quit working." May portrays Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Others hoped the documentary helps put the spotlight on Antietam. "Antietam never really gets the credit it should as an important battle," said Charles Wood of Cumberland, Md. "Everyone always focuses on Gettysburg."

Russ Richards of Hagerstown, who is organizing this year's Battle of South Mountain re-enactment, said the movie should be a big boost to Washington County tourism.

Auditions continue today from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and are open to anyone interested in a speaking part. Re-enactors should bring their full impressions.

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